CEDAR RAPIDS – There was a part of Mitch Maloney that thought his days of competitive hockey might be over.
Forget about the dream of ever playing in college. He’d had a so-so first season in junior.
As an older kid of 19, he got a late introduction to the sport because, of all things, he was afraid to ice skate. The immediate goal was keeping his spot on a lower-level club called the Port Huron Fighting Falcons.
Ever playing in the USHL seemed a ludicrous notion, unattainable.
“Not a chance,” said Maloney, who scored a goal Friday night in the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders’ 3-2 win at Sioux Falls. “I was 16 years old playing Double-A (midget), so I was really far behind. And I didn’t have a stellar season last year in the other league. So I thought it was over. I really did. They have given me a chance here, and it’s working out. I’m very thankful to be here.”
Maloney developed into one of the top goal scorers in the North American Hockey League this season and was summoned to Cedar Rapids by Riders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson. Looking for a little more size, grit and toughness for his team, Carlson brought in three guys from the NAHL, including one whose nickname is “Moose.”
That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Maloney.
“I play a very simple game,” said the 6-foot, 200-pounder. “When I’m thrown with very skilled guys, I think my work ethic and down-low ability brings out the best in their game.”
Maloney, from Macomb, Mich., has scored five goals and added four assists in 14 games for the Riders, who host Green Bay on Saturday night. He and fellow forward Brennan Sanford have made definite impacts as NAHL graduates.
A surprising impact, in Maloney’s case.
“Just trying to fit in. Just trying to do the little things right, just trying to do what I can to help (the team) get better,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I was worried about coming in, but I was anxious to get here. I was kind of worried about fitting in, that maybe I came here for the wrong reasons. But the guys are great. It was very easy to fit in with them.”
Cedar Rapids (22-14-1, 45 points) won for the eighth time in 11 games, getting third-period goals from Andrew Poturalski and Andrew Gaus to rally. Gaus’ goal, his first as a RoughRider, came with 10 minutes left in the game.
Chris Birdsall made 31 saves for the goaltending victory.
Here is the official gamesheet:
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